Big news: Brizzly Guide, iPhone app and more!

There’s lots of big news in the world of Brizzly today. May we present to you:

Brizzly Guide
We’re launching the Brizzly Guide today, which expands on the trend explanations already shown in Brizzly by giving each topic its own page. Guide pages are permanent sources for up-to-date information on topics people are talking about. You can access these pages even after a topic is no longer showing in our top 10.

A topic page in the Brizzly Guide

Brizzly for iPhone

Now the best way to view Twitter on the web is available as an iPhone app! This free app is available for download in the iTunes app store today. Brizzly for iPhone brings great features of ours like Twitter list support, media expansion, trends and news, and more to our favorite mobile phone. This application was made possible by our acquisition of Birdfeed, a fabulous Twitter client made by Buzz Andersen and Neven Mrgan. Download it and let us know what you think.

We’ve acquired WikiRank, the visualization web app for Wikipedia data, from our friends at Small Batch, Inc. This is a recent acquisition, so expect future releases to make use of WikiRank technology.

This has all taken a great deal of work, cooperation and time, and we’re incredibly proud and excited to announce them to you today. Please, as always, let us know what you think. If you have feedback, questions or you encounter problems, visit our help page to get in touch.

Featured Brizzly Pic(s): @Factory20

Around the office, one of our reliable sources of entertaintment is looking at searches for “brizzly” in our own app – partly for vain reasons, of course, but largely because we love seeing the resulting photos that have been posted through Brizzly. We call these Brizzly Pics (or sometimes BrizPics for short).

People use Brizzly to post photos, screenshots and images of all kinds of things. For example, @imabuddha recently shared a snap of some delicious looking potato skins he made, @phs_latin_short posted what is presumably a classroom doodle, and our friend @donald gave a preview of a gadget he’ll be reviewing for CNET. There are cats, dogs, utensil SNAFUs, questionable Amazon recommendations, and, of course, bees with Will.I.Am’s head.

We’ll be featuring other interesting Brizzly Pics as we find them regularly on this blog, so keep your eyes peeled. This week, take a look at this vintage furniture set, artfully photographed and shared by Washington, D.C.’s @Factory20:

Come across or upload an interesting picture on Brizzly? Email it to us: brizpic AT thinglabs DOT you-know-what.

Brizzly and Tornado Web Server

For those of you who want to get a little insight into how we make Brizzly run, we’ve decided to start sharing occasional technical posts like this one, written by star engineer Ben Darnell. Enjoy!

Tornado Web ServerHere at Thing Labs, we’re always looking for ways to improve the performance of Brizzly. One important technique for real-time communication in web apps is “long polling,” where a web server keeps a connection open with a client until it has results to send back. Unfortunately, this technique came around after most web frameworks were designed so they’re not built to handle gobs of simultaneous connections efficiently. Because of this, we were excited by the release of the Tornado web framework. Tornado was originally developed at Friendfeed and released as open source by Facebook, and was designed to support long polling efficiently. Since December, Brizzly has been running on Tornado, with a growing number of features taking advantage of Tornado’s long polling capabilities.

Brizzly started out using the Django framework, and most of our code is in fact still based on Django. We have been converting pieces of the site one at a time based on where Tornado can add the most value, and we expect the two frameworks to coexist in Brizzly for some time.

Along the way, we have made a number of improvements to Tornado, many of which make it easier to migrate from one framework to Tornado or mix two frameworks in one app. These changes are now available in the Tornado git repository and will be available in the next release. For more information, read this post by Bret Taylor, Facebook’s director of products.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at a 1964 press conference

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We’re working today, but we couldn’t forget King’s legacy if we tried. Do yourself a favor, and if you ever find yourself in Memphis, visit the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, the site of King’s 1968 assassination. It’s simultaneously sad and uplifting, and will hopefully leave you inspired.

(If you can’t make the trip, at least listen to or read King’s speeches and letters online.)

Crunchies and Shorties

While we didn’t take home awards, we are honored to have been named as a finalist in two categories of the 2009 Crunchies, co-hosted by tech news sites GigaOm, VentureBeat and TechCrunch. We were in good company in both the “Best Social App” and “Best Design” categories, and were happy to see our competition be recognized Friday night.

Award season isn’t over, though. If you want to stroke our collective ego, you can nominate us for a Shorty award (if you’re into that kind of thing). To vote, visit (and be sure to read the Shorty interview with Brizzly) or simply tweet “I nominate @brizzly for a Shorty Award in #apps because…” and explain why. No pressure, but we appreciate your nominations!

Recent feature round-up

Our engineers work pretty darn hard here at Thing Labs (sometimes they even pause to sleep). As such, we’ve had some great features launch over the last month, some of which may have slipped by you, or if you’re me, you’ve already taken for granted. Here’s a reminder of the Brizzly features we’ve pushed out in the last month:

Groups was one of Brizzly’s earliest features, but when Twitter rolled out its lists system, we wanted to support it. We figured we’d better make the transition smooth, which was tricky! It all worked out, though and any lists you create on Brizzly sync with Twitter lists (and vice versa).

See a tweet in a language you don’t read? Hover over it and click the question mark to see an automatic translation. (Clicking the question mark for tweets in your native language will still show you additional information about the tweet and its author.)

For example, this tweet…

…can be translated like this:

Temporary themes
For the release of “New Moon,” we (well, Chris) decided it would be neat to provide a little extra something for those Brizzly users who were excited about the film. Typing #Jacob or #Edward into the update box brings your choice of oft-shirtless male vampire to the Brizzly interface.

OMG Jacob!

OMG Edward!

Auto-suggest @replies
From the beginning, many users asked for the usernames of the people they follow automatically suggested as they type a username in an update. This week, we turned on that feature, so as soon as you type “@” and a letter, we’ll suggest people to automatically complete the reply.

@reply auto-suggest

@reply auto-suggest

All that and we opened our beta to the public too, so tell a friend about Brizzly! Big thanks to those users who have suggested and requested features – we’re happy to hear your thoughts on our contact page or on Twitter @brizzly (use this link if you’re logged into Brizzly).

Brizzly now open to the public (and other big news)

As of today, Brizzly is open to anyone – no invitation code required any more! We’ve had a great couple of months since we first launched to a small group of friends, and we want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have tried Brizzly to this point and given us your honest feedback on the product (or simply continued using it). We love what we do and we’re happy to be able to share it with even more of you. (We’ll still be in beta for a bit, which just means we’ll be continuing to experiment as usual.)

Ben Darnell

(l-r, Phineas T Brizzly, Ben Darnell)

As if that weren’t big enough news, there’s more. First, we’re welcoming Ben Darnell to the team. Ben comes to us from Facebook, where he was working after the company acquired FriendFeed. Prior to that, Ben was an early Googler and founding member of the Google Reader team (where he worked with our own Chris Wetherell, Dolapo Falola and Jason Shellen). Ben will do amazing things with us, working to begin our efforts in a much larger framework for communication and content discovery. This will include a built-out infrastructure, APIs and more. In other words, this is a huge addition to our engineering team! Welcome, Ben.

Additionally, we’ve introduced a new feature: on-the-fly translation of tweets. Whenever you see a Twitter update in a language different from your default language in Brizzly, click the “?” next to the star icon in any tweet and we’ll show you a translation (courtesy of Google Translate).

Thanks for helping make Brizzly great, now go tell a friend about Brizzly!